Completing a Palace

This space has been completed, as Tapp has implemented his custom designs of the elegant gold leaf fireplace and art piece niches.

This space has been completed, as Tapp has implemented his custom designs of the elegant gold leaf fireplace and art piece niches.

Like any art form, interior design is subject to the whims of time and trends. Though separated by a handful of years at most, it is obvious even to the untrained eye that a home designed in the 2000s has a distinctly different look than one last touched in the 2010s.  Since what’s current and evocative one year may not necessarily hold up in the next, it is imperative to have an expert come in from time to time in order to keep your home from being swept away by the fading chic of yesteryear.

Dennis Tapp of Designs by Dennis Tapp is one such expert. Fresh off the design of Nowhere Bar’s sister establishment, Somewhere Restaurant and Bar, Tapp is currently at a creative zenith, and his muse is firing on all cylinders. A true creative type, it seems that Tapp thrives while working on several projects at once, but there is one home of his in Lake Forest that is particularly breathtaking.

The foyer will mostly be left as is, but Tapp has plans to install a crystal chandelier and other fixtures in order to further elevate the space.

The foyer will mostly be left as is, but Tapp has plans to install a crystal chandelier and other fixtures in order to further elevate the space.

“The foyer is done, and the living space is done. The dining room is the next step,” says Tapp as we walk in. Tapp is the first to admit that he has a lot of work to complete with this home still, but it hardly matters. The home boasts an incredible 9,800 square feet and contains a staggering 6 1/2 baths and seven bedrooms. Despite its incomplete status, it’s difficult to remain unimpressed. The word palatial comes to mind.

While discussing his work on this home, “dark” is a word that Tapp tosses around freely, but at least in the foyer and living room, it appears to be a quality that he has all but vanquished. “It was so dark and heavy looking,” he says of the living room. “You walked into this room and you didn’t get any emphasis on the height and the drama of it. What I did was come in here, tear the cabinets and the carpet out and continue the tile.”

Next, Tapp also worked with the homeowner to incorporate specific art pieces that she wanted featured in the space. “I built niches to accommodate all the pieces she wanted to display in here,” asserts Tapp. “I designed the fireplace to go up, and I had my faux finisher come in here and goldleaf it then come back in and distress it.” Tapp is well known for customizing his accessories and design pieces to fit any client’s vision, and he did so with both the upholstery and the pedestals that now feature statues of the Hindu god Ganesha.

The master bedroom has mostly remained untouched, but Tapp has already selected the wall art on display here.

The master bedroom has mostly remained untouched, but Tapp has already selected the wall art on display here.

The rest of the house – while still beautiful – has yet to be molded by Tapp’s vision. But oh, does he have plans.

“We’re going to keep the piano in the entrance way, but I want to add a crystal chandelier with black shades to match and really make things pop,” he says. When he moves on to the kitchen, Tapp laments yet again the dark, heavy look of the room: “It makes the house age, I think, before its time. I want to update it, to resuscitate it.”

He hopes to go about doing that by adding new seating, lighting and window treatments. Another goal of his is to change the look of the space with complementary black lacquer and silver finish. By watching Tapp, it’s clear that he can already see what he wants to do. As he does a quick survey of the kitchen, he smiles briefly and says, “When I get done with it, it will blend in beautifully.”

The majority of Tapp’s energies seem to be directed toward redesigning the master bath. He plans to keep the beautiful cabinetry but remove the dated glass blocks from the shower area.

The majority of Tapp’s energies seem to be directed toward redesigning the master bath. He plans to keep the beautiful cabinetry but remove the dated glass blocks from the shower area.

Tapp also has plans to update the master bedroom and master bath, and his ideas for the spaces seem to pour out of him: “In the bedroom, I want to change the bedding and wall coverings. I want to change the lamps, the drapery and the window treatments. In the bathroom, I have to get rid of those glass blocks. It’s very ’90s. This house has got some great features; we’re just getting rid of that look that was the style of the home’s original builder.”

As impeccable as his taste may be, Tapp also wants to make his client happy and ensure that the home transforms into a space that they will enjoy living in. In the case of this home, Tapp has this to say: “She wanted a formal look but a nice, comfortable look at the same time. She loves silver, and gold is making a comeback in popularity. The two look great together, so I tried to pair the two together wherever I could. That way, you have a marriage of a trend and the owner’s personal preference. It keeps the home from feeling dated.”

With further plans to transform the basement into a walkout basement, extend the patio and cultivate the already lovely backyard area, it seems that this palace that would have been the undoing of a lesser designer is in more than capable hands. Dennis Tapp meets the challenge with a confident promise: “I want it so when you walk in, you say, ‘Wow, it doesn’t even look like the same house.’” VT

Photos by Ryan Noltemeyer